After a tough season, Charlotte volleyball turns its eye toward the Conference USA (C-USA) championship in Bowling Green, Ky., as they face the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Miners in the quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 18.
It is the second matchup against UTEP for the 49ers this season, with the Miners coming out ahead in three sets on Oct. 23.
Scouting the Miners
In terms of competition, UTEP is a formidable foe – sitting at No. 3 in C-USA.
The Miners possess a potent offense. They sit best in the conference for points per set at 16.73 and are No. 1 in service aces at 1.98 per set. However, while they are average in other categories, they are the lowest in kills, where UTEP sits at No. 8 in C-USA.
The Miners offer their best efforts in their time without the ball. Opponents have landed 16.9% of hits against them, second-best in the conference, and the Miners are best for limiting opponents' assists at 9.64 per set. In addition, they sit atop the charts in opponent kills, keeping them at 10.54 per set and No. 3 in opponent service aces per set at 1.31.
No Miner tops the standings in any individual metric. Kaya Weaver comes the closest in blocks, with Alianza Darley at No. 4 in that statistic and Sara Pustahija at No. 4 in service aces just behind.
Scouting the 49ers
Despite the 49er's struggles during the season, Charlotte's crew has plenty of upsides that could show in the fray.
On the attack, the Green and White have hang-ups which could make for a tough time on the court. Charlotte sits at No. 9 in the conference at 16.16 per set. Elsewhere, their performance with assists and kills per set lands them in sixth place for both. The 49ers do best in hitting percentage at 25.3%, good enough for No. 4 in C-USA.
Charlotte's defense is more mixed in its standing. Although they sit at No. 4 in blocks in the conference, they sit dead last in digs. As for how opponents do against them, the 49ers have the worst opponent hitting percentage, opposing assists, and opponent kills; this puts them well at a disadvantage to the capable defense of the Miners, as the lack of similar defensive effectiveness means a reliance on the middling offense to carry the day.
The spark of hope in the ranks of the 49ers is the players. Junior Emani' Foster tops the conference standings in kills per set at 5.01, well above the competition's second-best at 4.17, and leads in points per set at 5.58. Joining her at the upper end of the Charlotte lineup is senior Amani McArthur, who is No. 2 in both hitting percentage and blocks.
The road to victory
Come game time, Charlotte's most substantial chance to earn the laurels of victory is through the 49ers themselves.
Thanks to the intense offense and sturdy defense presented by the UTEP Miners, the individual capabilities of Charlotte's troops are crucial to pushing through and taking the fight to the Texans. Even if the team may struggle to get the job done, individual heroics at the right time could put UTEP on the back foot and give Charlotte the chance it needs.
Conversely, the Miners have many advantages in their default position. The solid overall lineup they hold will be a tough crew for the Green and White to face on even ground. If the 49ers best do not perform at their best, then UTEP will be in an undeniable spot to take the match.
Charlotte volleyball and the UTEP Miners prepare to fight at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, in Bowling Green, Ky.